lifestyle

How Physically Altering Your Brain May Be the Panacea to Medical School Success

Medical school is a stressful time, one of intense study, divided attention, and extreme mental demands.  As a brand new third year student, I can feel my attention being tugged in many directions.  On any given day I have lectures to prepare for, cases to read about, labs to check, patients to see, reading assignments, etc.  It’s hard to say if it’s more material than the previous two years of school, but it is definitely more diverse in nature. Naturally I am interested in anything that increases my mental abilities.  Many students, myself included, turn to energy drinks and coffee for those days we can’t get it together.  But a recent body of research suggests there may be a better alternative to mega doses of caffeine.  Mindfulness training and meditation, something that has been known to Eastern cultures for centuries, has slowly migrated its way into Western society and has been the subject of a wealth of literature over the past decade. A study published last year in Psychological Science demonstrated that just two-weeks of mindfulness training improved undergraduate reading comprehension and focus.  Another study looked at incorporating mindfulness training into a semester of classes for undergraduate students.  This, too, demonstrated improvements in attention.  A review of the literature suggests that there are numerous studies correlating mindfulness mediation training with increased attention and enhanced working memory So how does...

12 Tips For Being The +1 At A Wedding, “Almost” Doc Style

It’s spring, and you know what that means … wedding season! Being a “plus-one,” aka the unspecified date that wedding guests are often allowed to bring, can be an anxious experience. You probably won’t know very many people, yet you will be expected to eat, drink, and be merry. You’ll be introduced to dozens of new people whose names you’ll be expected to remember, even though you’ve already made six trips to the open bar. However, if you follow these tips, you can be sure that you’ll be the perfect plus-one: anonymous, meek, and instantly forgettable. 1. Know your role: think of a wedding as being made up of a series of tiers. Think of how the tiers work in the medical field and where you stand as an “almost” doc, and you’ll catch on quick. In descending order of importance: attending physician, fellow, chief resident, senior resident, junior resident, intern, and medical student. As an “almost” doc you’re probably low on the totem pole. No different as a +1 at a wedding. There is the bride and groom, their parents, the bridal party, invited guests, hired staff, the hors d’oeuvres, and then you. You’re like a wedding peasant. 2. Speaking of the hors d’oeuvres, show some self respect. Sure, you’ll probably never see most of these people again in your life, but try to keep them from remembering...

How Do We Change the Public’s View of Science?

“Can you explain DNA to me?” my aunt asked the other day. “I always hear things like DNA, gene, and sequence being thrown around in the news but I don’t really know what they mean by it. Like how do you look at DNA and see the sequence? With a microscope?” My reaction was twofold. First, I was glad that she reached out to ask rather than just disregard what she didn’t know. By studying science, terms like these have been integrated into my vocabulary and I’ve found it easy to forget that to many they are still jargon. Unfortunately, my aunt is by no means alone in this sentiment. The number of adults who are science literate – defined as having “knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making” – is a mere 28 percent. This number has nearly tripled over the past 20 years, which is great, but it nonetheless highlights how far we need to go. Why does this matter? No, it’s not just because I live and breathe science and want others to love it too (which I do). Rather, while many think the answer to the classic high school question, “When will I need to know this?” is never, that is not the case with science. An understanding of science is necessary to take care of your own health...

The 7 Stages of Not-Getting-Into-Medical-School Grief

1. Denial & Isolation First, you feel devastated in such a deep and perfect way it’s almost like feeling nothing at all. http://www.reactiongifs.com/r/dead.gif   2. Pain & Guilt You slowly empty out and then begin to fill with shame at (what you perceive to be) your biggest failure. Over the next few weeks you go over every minute detail of the past few months: what you said in your interviews, the views you expressed in your applications, how long it took you to send thank-you emails to necessary persons. You try to figure out what went wrong.   3. Anger Just pure, unadulterated anger. http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6anmhM5z01r8gnxa.gif   4. “Depression” & Reflection Why is this happening?! You did everything right. You had research experience, you shadowed five doctors, you got a 42 on your MCAT! Just who exactly do these admissions committee people think they are!   5. The Upward Turn Gradually, almost imperceptibly at first, your anger will cool to acceptance. http://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/give-up.gif   6. Reconstruction & Working Through You’ll realize maybe there are a few things you can improve, maybe you weren’t quite as ready as you thought, maybe those committee people do know what they’re doing.   7. Acceptance & Hope Most importantly, you realize that you are an amazing individual who is proud of your accomplishments even though you didn’t get accepted this time around. You are strong and...

Harvard Says: Train Residents and Medical Students Like Navy SEALS

Not too long ago, Harvard Medical School held a symposium on learning. The topic of the meeting was “Resiliency and Learning: Implications for Teaching Medical Students and Residents.” Chronic stress, as experienced by physicians, affects the endocrine and other systems causing immune suppression and metabolic disorders leading to depression, cognitive dysfunction and a lot of other bad things. Similar stress follows in the wake of natural disasters, war and severe abuse—again, pertinent to the practice of medicine. The researchers found that these problems can be avoided or reversed by training as that undergone by so-called “stress-hardy groups” like the Navy SEALS. The qualities that help make Navy SEALS resilient are “a social support network, optimism (including faith in a higher cause or power), perseverance (work ethic), responsibility and integrity…” Medical students and physicians can be taught to be resilient resulting in decreased rates of depression and burnout. Makes sense to me. Let’s train doctors in the manner of Navy SEALS. But wait. Not mentioned in the Harvard Medical School Focus article is an important feature of the Navy SEAL culture—Navy SEALS do not work 16 hours per day or 80 hours per week. A major part of their training is centered on performing at a high level even when sleep-deprived. Navy SEAL Hell Week is described as follows: “In this grueling five-and-a-half day stretch, each candidate sleeps only four...

Long-Distance Relationships Mean Always Getting to Say Hello

Starting medical school is difficult. On a physical and biological level, the sleep deprivation and hours of studying and stress can leave you fatigued, and sometimes even physically ill. For some, leaving home means more than leaving the house in which you grew up, the college you attended, the family and friends who have supported you and given you the confidence to understand that through all the applications and interviews, everything would be alright. For a lucky few, that support also comes in the support of a significant other: That significant other who was able to make you feel that you were the number one applicant for the best medical school in the country, who consoled you after you accidentally said the wrong medical school’s name during your interview, and who hugged you when, despite all odds, you ended up with your white coat. But what happens when you have to say goodbye to that significant other and dive into the books?  We’ve said goodbye in driveways, bus stations, and airports, in parking lots and on street corners. Long distance relationships mean always having to say goodbye. I remember the end of the first visit: I watched her walk down the sidewalk as the bus pulled out of the station, yanking me from her receding figure. As the countdown to our next reunion was reset to a dauntingly high...

Med Student Gets Drafted to the NFL

It is not uncommon for undergraduate students to participate in extra-curricular activities, including athletics. Many college athletes sacrifice social relationships, sleep and perhaps other obligations to pursue their passion for sports while keeping up with their school work. But imagine doing this all in medical school. For two years, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has played offensive lineman for McGill University while also being a medical student! Being that the school is located in Canada, their educational model is a bit different than that of the United States — instead of having to complete 4 years pursuing a bachelor’s of arts or science and then going on to medical school, students are able to matriculate in McGill’s undergraduate medicine programs where they can graduate with an M.D.,C.M.: Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery in as little as 4 years. Duvernay-Tardif juggled his medical studies with his football schedule for the first 2 years of medical school. Between morning lifts and afternoon tackle-drills, he tackled biochemistry and constructed mnemonics, just like the rest of his classmates. For 2 years, he seemed to manage – saying that he worked with his coaches and that he always put medical school first. On the day of the 3rd round draft pick, Duvernay-Tardif had every intention of watching, understandably so, for there was a reasonable chance he would be picked. And his name was called – by a neonatal intensive care at McGill’s medical...